40 killed in Afghan violence

Kabul, May 03: Four civilians, including two children, were killed in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan, while four Afghan army soldiers and 31 Taliban militants were killed elsewhere in the country, officials said Sunday.
In the latest incident, an eight-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy and two adult civilians were killed in Gerishk district of southern Helmand province Sunday morning. The bomb that killed them was placed on a motorbike in the main market of the district, Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor said.

Seven others, including two policemen and five civilians, were wounded in the blast, he said.

The Afghan interior ministry earlier said three civilians were killed and eight were wounded in the explosion. The statement held the “enemies of Afghanistan”, a term often used to describe the Taliban militants, responsible for the attack.

The southern region is the main hub for Taliban insurgency. The militants rely heavily on use of roadside attacks as part of their seven-year-old insurgency against the Afghan government and its international military allies.

Meanwhile, “hundreds of Taliban militants, mostly Al Qaeda members and foreign fighters” attacked an army outpost in Ghazni Abad district of eastern Kunar province Friday evening, killing four Afghan national army soldiers and wounding three others, defence ministry said in a statement Sunday.

Afghan commandos and US-led coalition forces were deployed to the area and the joint forces killed 19 Taliban militants in the ongoing operation, the statement said, adding that 10 bodies of the Taliban militants were left on the battlefield.

Taliban militants claimed in a statement posted on their website that their forces killed several Afghan and coalition forces and took hostage 13 army soldiers and an Afghan interpreter for coalition forces.

The defence ministry did not confirm Taliban claims of taking hostage army soldiers, but said that the operation was ongoing to track down the remaining attackers in the area.

Separately an interior ministry statement Sunday said that government forces backed by coalition soldiers had killed 12 Taliban militants in the Charcheno district of southern Uruzgan province in the past three days.

Three rebel commanders were among those killed, it said, adding that there were no casualties among more than 200 police forces, who took part in the operation.

The violence is on the rise in the war-torn Afghanistan as Taliban militants launched a countrywide operation, dubbed Nasrat (victory) Thursday. Under the new offensive, the militants, who were driven from power in late 2001, have vowed to increase their attacks on Afghan government and NATO military targets.

Around 70,000 international troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. The US has ordered the deployment of 17,000 additional combat forces and 4,000 military advisors in Afghanistan by summer this year.